Sunday, 1 May 2011

TALKING OF RELIGION

What a beautiful month April has been! Spring has fulfilled its promise. May is usually my most favourite month of the year, but it really will have to go some this time round to beat April.

Lynda, Phil Johnson and I are going along to play a few tunes at the annual Seed Swap at Astbury Mere on the afternoon of the 8th of May. I love this event. The planting of seeds is such an optimistic life-affirming gesture. It’s comforting to think that there are some people left who believe in respecting and nurturing the earth instead of putting it under concrete and tarmac and paving blocks and hideous housing.

Talking of the earth and growing things, The Woodlanders played a great Young Farmers gig last night. It just don’t get much better than a farm barn dance with great people, a great repertoire of traditional English tunes, an ace caller (Steve Share is among the best in the business), and a band of mates – me, Lynda, Phil Johnson and Neil Hulse.

And talking of religion which we weren’t, but we are now: me and Lynda went to Barthomley to have a look at the church there and have a jar in the White Lion. The church is dedicated to an 8th century saint, Saint Bertoline. History has it that during the civil war, 17 local people took refuge in the bell tower, but were smoked out by the Kings Men and slaughtered on the spot. They cut the throat of a minor (under 21), John Fowler, inside the church on the bell tower floor. Also in the church are brass plaques commemorating the local dead of the 1st and 2nd world wars. This collection of facts and artefacts begged an obvious question, and a walk around the graveyard prompted the following song:

WHERE WERE YOU, ST. BERTOLINE?

Where were you, St. Bertoline
In their needful hour -
The seventeen, St. Bertoline
Driven from the tower?
Where was: the bolt of thunder
To bring the King’s Men to their knees
When John Fowler bled under
The bells of Barthomley?

And where were you, St. Bertoline
At Ypres and the Somme
For Joe and George, St. Bertoline
For Harry Jenkinson?
Where was: the angels gathered round
Singing ‘Peace be unto thee’
When the rattling guns were mowing down
The boys from Barthomley?

And where were you, St. Bertoline
For Edwin Farrington
For Reg Holland, St. Bertoline -
Plunged into death so young?
Where was: the hand born of your will
To pluck them mercif’ly
From Hitler’s rage, to this green hill
To age in Barthomley?

Where are you now St. Bertoline
At this thoughtful hour -
By the stream, St. Bertoline?
In the breeze that blows the flower?
Do you nightly stalk the nave
Your head hung ashamedly
For all you never did to save
The boys of Barthomley?

Where will you be, St. Bertoline
When the new war comes -
When buckles gleam, St. Bertoline
At the thumping of the drums?
Ah, let me guess! – same as before:
With this useless company
When the next cruel war comes begging for
The blood of Barthomley.

***

Adam Fenn says I only write miserable songs. He’s quite wrong, of course. It’s only just that they mainly are.

Happy May days,

Terry

1 comment:

Dean Harries. said...

Great poem Terry. Love it. Hope you're ok and everything is going well. Best wishes.

Dean.